Rival gang members baptized together

Gateway Church, a popular megachurch in Texas launched a new campus in a maximum security prison earlier this year. Last week, five inmates in solitary confinement were baptized. Part of what makes the story noteworthy is that the men come from rival gangs.

Many articles have discussed the risk to their own lives that these men were taking in being baptized with their enemies.

Fox News describes the scene:

Five of the men – confirmed gang or cartel members – were brought into the gymnasium, shackled hand and foot and around the waist, and they had to clear the prison because of safety concerns.

“They couldn’t lift their arms above their waist, each one has a guard on each arm, and wouldn’t leave their side until they were in the water,” Holsinger said.

Three of them were placed on one side. Two men on the other. A field guard told the pastor it was because they were from rival gangs and the only way for them to leave the gangs or cartels is death.

It’s a beautiful picture of the gospel and what the gospel is meant to do.

The gospel brings life to people who are utterly bankrupt and dead in their sins. It’s easy to look at these violent criminals and see their sins. But all sin and fall short of the glory of God. All of us are sinners at the core.

The good news of the gospel is that we can all receive grace and life through faith in Jesus Christ. No matter what a person has done in the past, if they turn to Jesus, there is redemption.

The gospel is meant to unite. It’s meant to unite a sinful world to a holy God. But the gospel is also meant to bring unity and peace between sinful people. While the world wars and people harm one another, the gospel is meant to tear down walls of hostility. It’s meant to cost reconciliation. It’s meant to do that among races, among nations, among any category by which people divide themselves. With this story, we see that: men in rival gangs stepping out in faith and being baptized.

We see the value of the gospel. For these men, they’re literally risking their lives to be obedient to the command of Christ and receive baptism. In America, people (fortunately) very rarely face life-threatening persecution for their faith. But it’s a real possibility for these men. It’s inspiring that they see the value and worth of the gospel.

One of the men who was baptized said, ““I have tried it my way my whole life and it’s gotten me here. I want to try it God’s way…we’re going to come out of the water as new men.”

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Josh Benner has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.